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Album Review

Careful perusal of Ella Fitzgerald's humongous discography reveals numerous references to metallurgy, including platinum, silver, and more than a dozen titles containing the word "gold." Released in 2007, Fitzgerald's double-disc entry in Verve's Gold series outshines most of the competition with 40 chronologically presented titles recorded between May 1938 and October 1964. With disc one dedicated to her Deccas and disc two devoted to her Verves, this well-organized anthology of intelligently selected works is highly recommended as a definitive portrait of this archetypal vocalist whose improvisational abilities are legendary. Fitzgerald's early period is represented here by examples of her work with Chick Webb's Orchestra, the Ink Spots, the Delta Rhythm Boys and Louis Jordan's Tympany Five, a tight little group temporarily transformed into a hot calypso band for the notoriously outrageous and wickedly funny "Stone Cold Dead in the Market." Her further adventures as a Decca recording artist include comparatively well-behaved and sometimes sugary collaborations with Gordon Jenkins, the Song Spinners, Sy Oliver, and Ray Brown, in addition to her 1950 duet with Louis Armstrong, "Dream a Little Dream of Me." Appalled at what he regarded as Decca's lousy management of a gifted artist, producer Norman Granz proudly showcased Fitzgerald on his Verve and Pablo labels from 1956 throughout most of the remainder of her career. This fruitful business arrangement is documented here with examples from the Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hart, Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, George & Ira Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercer songbook projects; more friendly duets with Louis Armstrong, a Jazz at the Philharmonic jam on "Lady Be Good," and two classic cuts from her deservedly famous concert performance at the Berlin Deutschland Halle on February 13, 1960. Like its companion Dinah Washington volume in the series, Ella Fitzgerald's Decca/Verve Gold is an excellent choice for anyone seeking a definitive dose of her best work.

Biography

Born: 25 April 1917 in Newport News, VA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

"The First Lady of Song," Ella Fitzgerald was arguably the finest female jazz singer of all time (although some may vote for Sarah Vaughan or Billie Holiday). Blessed with a beautiful voice and a wide range, Fitzgerald could outswing anyone, was a brilliant scat singer, and had near-perfect elocution; one could always understand the words she sang. The one fault was that, since she always sounded so happy to be singing, Fitzgerald did not always dig below the surface of the lyrics she interpreted...
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